When we’re talking about ring bearers and flowers girls coming down the aisle, the “when-do-they-enter” question is only half the conversation. We also need to consider how the kids are going to feel and how they might respond when their big moment comes.
(For that other half of the conversation – my post on all the “when-do-they-enter” stuff – just click here.)
As a professional officiant, I’ve seen plenty of kids – hundreds – nail it with flying colours. I’ve also seen kids sit down in the aisle and refuse to go any further. I’ve seen kids make a left turn at the head of the aisle and not even make it to the back row. ‘Seen kids start to cry and need to be carried. And grandmas holding lollipops at the end of the aisle to lure the little one onwards.
When my three-year-old daughter was asked to be a flower girl for a wedding, we prepared her as best we could for the moments leading up to her entrance. We reinforced that she’d feel nervous and that it would be fun, too. We borrowed a couple of wonderful books from our local library: one that tells the story of a flower girl (okay, mouse) named Lily and another about a flower girl named Nancy. She ended up doing amazingly well (meaning, she walked in a straight line and got to the front without having a meltdown).
As wedding officiants, we can help our couples with suggestions for prepping kids and their parents for walking down the aisle.
For example, in our wedding planning session, if and when the couple tell me that there are kids in the processional, I always ask about their ages. Then I ask for the couple to talk me through how they think each of the kids are going to respond to the pressure of their role. For some couples, it’s the first time they’ve actually thought about whether the kid might cry or freeze up. So we talk about how we might make it easier for the kids with all those eyes watching.
Let’s encourage our wedding couple to prep any ring bearers, flower girls, and their parents as best they can. Maybe even point them in the direction of a storybook about ring bearers or flower girls.
And more importantly, as wedding officiants, it’s in our purview to minimize chaos in the wedding ceremony. So here are 5 things to consider when it comes to kids successfully making their walk down the aisle.
Does the ring bearer have the actual rings – or decoys?
When the ring bearer brings the actual wedding bands down the aisle in the processional, he will traditionally walk up to the Best Man and give him both rings for the ring exchange.
However, sometimes the ring bearer will simply be too young to be trusted with the actual rings. If this is the case, no problem! That’s where decoys come in.
Now, when I say decoys, I don’t necessarily just mean the rings. Yes, you could have decoy rings. That’s definitely one way to do it. But it can take a lot of the time to find rings that don’t look too obviously fake. And they can be hard to find. And it’s a lot of trouble to go through when everyone will be looking at the cute kid and not what he’s holding anyway.
So another alternative for our couple is to give the ring bearer an elaborate little pillow where you wouldn’t even notice there’s no ring on it.
Another really good idea I’ve seen is for the ring bearer to carry an ornate little box that’s actually empty. And no one’s the wiser.
Lastly, these days, it’s fashionable for the ring bearer not to be a ring bearer at all, but rather to be a sign bearer. Basically, his role is not to carry rings or even pretend to carry rings. Instead, he’s holding a little chalkboard-type slate with a cute message like “Here Comes the Bride” written on it.
There are a lot of options we can give our couples. Just ask them questions about the kid and whether or not they want him to have the real rings. If not, there are lots of other options for the ring bearer.
Will the flower girl drop flower petals?
Traditionally, the flower girl enters right before the bride. Often, she will have a basket of flower petals, and she’ll scatter the petals along the aisle as she walks. This creates a nice flower-petal-carpet effect for the bride’s walk.
As we discussed in the article about when kids enter, though, some couples opt to have the kids go down the aisle before the bride’s wedding party.
If the flower girl is going down the aisle before all the bridesmaids and she’s scattering petals, we just need to be mindful of this one thing:
There’s a good chance that most or all the petals will be swished off the aisle and into the seats. The aisle floor will probably be mostly bare. Especially if the bridesmaids’ dresses reach the floor and they’ve all come through after the flower girl.
Obviously, this is not the end of the world, and it’s totally fine in most instances. But if the bride is really set on having that carpet-of-flower-petals effect when she makes her processional walk, then the flower girl might need to go immediately before the bride and not the bridesmaids.
Will the smaller kids need a wagon or a carry?
We’ve been taking for granted here that the kids walking in the processional can… walk! But what if the kids are too little to walk?
No worries. In this case, we can talk our couple through putting the kids in a wagon or getting someone to carry them.
If the couple are using a wagon, the one thing to consider (besides who will pull the wagon!) is: make sure there are no stairs on the processional route.
I did a wedding at Casa Loma once, and that couple had planned to put the one-year-old twins in a white, beautifully decorated wagon. What we didn’t know until we got there (and we had done the wedding rehearsal somewhere else!) is that there were three small steps just inside the room where the wedding party was to make their entrance. A total no-go for the wagon! So, game-time decision: we planted the wagon just behind the back row of chairs and had someone drop the twins into it when it was their time to come down the aisle. Their dad pulled the wagon, they were cute as heck, and all was a success. Whew!
If the couple are having the smaller ones carried, here’s a question I always have for them: how will the person carrying the kid feel about it?
It’s a pretty easy logistical solution for, say, the bride to say something like, “Oh, my sister will just carry the flower girl down. She’s her mom and she’s in my wedding party anyway.”
Okay… and how will you sister feel about having to walk 50 feet with a 20-pound kettlebell-human on her hip with 100 people watching? And not get to have her distinguished moment in the limelight like all her fellow other bridesmaids?
Some parents genuinely won’t mind and will be happy to do it. Others might be hurt by it. So I coach my couple to make sure they clear it with the “carrying parent” as to how they may feel about carrying versus not carrying.
What’s the backup plan for stage fright?
I always say that kids under 4 or 5 years old only have one real job in the wedding processional: to be cute. And they can’t help but be that, so they’re going to crush it.
That said, we need to be prepared for the literal roadblock (okay, aisleblock) that might happen. Like, say, when one of the kids literally sits down in the aisle and refuses to go any further. Or freezes halfway down. It’ll be adorable and all that, but we have to get them moving (or moved) somehow, because there are other people to follow.
So, it’s always a good idea to have the conversation with our couple in our wedding planning session: what happens if the ring bearer or flower girl stops and won’t go further?
A lot of the time, it’s just a matter of asking one of the kids’ parents to be ready to swoop in. Other times, it’s posting Grandma just by the front row dangling a toy or treat to give the little one a desirable destination. Your couple will have the answer to this. It’s just not a stone we want to be left unturned, so to speak. Let’s make sure we have a plan for stage fright, so the next person can come down the aisle and keep the processional moving.
Where do the kids go when they get to the front?
It’s an oversight that can be way too easy to make: we’re so bent on making sure the kids get to the front, we don’t tell them what to do when they get there!
As we said earlier, sometimes the ring bearer will bring the rings to the Best Man. Sometimes, he’ll just pretend. Sometimes, he’ll just fist-bump the groom when he gets there. Same for the flower girl. She might have a thing to do. She might just need to veer off and sit down.
We need to ask our couple two questions explicitly about the kids:
1. What are they going to do when they get to the front?
2. Where are they going to sit?
Sometimes the answer to #1 is actually the answer to #2: “Johnny is going to hang a left at the front and sit with Mom in the front row.” But it also might be two different answers: “Johnny is first going to give his sign to the groom, then he’s going to walk to his second-row seat.”
So ask the wedding couple those two questions, have them think it through, and then we’re ready with a plan for the kids.
Having kids as ring bearers and flower girls in the wedding processional is a joy. And… it can add a level of unpredictability to the occasion – which is also joy! When we have a plan and we’re ready for anything, it means we can move things along smoothly. And as wedding officiants, that’s a huge part of what we’re there to do.